Reginald Denny (actor)

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Reginald Denny
Reginald Denny in Stars of the Photoplay, 1924.jpg
Reginald Denny in Stars of the Photoplay, 1924
Born (1891-11-20)20 November 1891
Richmond, Surrey, England, UK
Died 16 June 1967(1967-06-16) (aged 75)
Richmond, Surrey, England, UK
Occupation Actor and aviator
Years active 1915–1966
Spouse(s) Betsy Lee (1928–1967); 3 children
Irene Haisman (1913–1928; divorced); 1 child

Reginald Leigh Denny (20 November 1891 – 16 June 1967) was an English stage, film and television actor as well as an aviator and UAV pioneer. He was once an amateur boxing champion of Great Britain.

Acting career[edit]

Born in Richmond, Surrey, England, Denny (sources differ on his birth name giving variously Reginald Daymore,[1] Reginald Leigh Daymore[2] and Reginald Leigh Dugmore Denny[3]), but listed in birth records as Richard Leigh Dugmore, began his stage career at age seven in The Royal Family and in The Merry Widow at age 16, the year he left St. Francis Xavier College, Mayfield, Sussex. Years later he joined an opera company as a baritone, and toured India. After continuing his stage career in America, his film career started in 1915 with the old World Film Company and he made films both in the United States and Britain until the 1960s. He came from a theatrical family which went to the United States in 1912 to appear in the stage production Quaker Girl. His father was the actor and singer W.H. Denny. Reginald appeared in John Barrymore's 1920 Broadway production of Richard III; the two actors became friends.[citation needed]

Denny and his daughter in 1922

Denny was a well-known actor in silent films and with the advent of talkies, he became a character actor. He played the lead role in a number of his earlier films, generally as a comedic Englishman in such works as Private Lives and later had reasonably steady work as a supporting actor in dozens of films, including The Little Minister (1934) with Katharine Hepburn, Anna Karenina (1935) with Greta Garbo, Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940) and the Frank Sinatra crime caper film Assault on a Queen (1966). His last role was in Batman (1966) as Commodore Schmidlapp. He made frequent appearances in television during the 1950s and 1960s.

Aviation career[edit]

Reginald Denny 1917

He served as an observer/gunner in World War I in the Royal Flying Corps,[4] and in the 1920s he performed as a stunt pilot. In the early 1930s, Denny became interested in radio controlled model aeroplanes. He and his business partners formed Reginald Denny Industries and opened a model plane shop in 1934 known as Reginald Denny Hobby Shops.

He bought a plane design from Walter Righter in 1938 and began marketing it as the "Dennyplane", and a model engine called the "Dennymite".[5] In 1940, Denny and his partners won a US Army contract for their radio-controlled target drone, the OQ-2 Radioplane. They manufactured nearly fifteen thousand drones for the US Army during the Second World War. The company was purchased by Northrop in 1952.[6][7]

Marilyn Monroe was discovered working as an assembler at Radioplane. A photographer assigned by Denny's friend, Army publicist (and future US President) Captain Ronald Reagan, took several shots and persuaded her to work as a model, which was the beginning of her career.[8][9]


Reginald Denny died on 16 June 1967, aged 75, after suffering a stroke, while visiting his native Britain. His interment was at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.[10] He was survived by his widow, Betsy and their three children. Denny was preceded in death by his daughter (from his first marriage to Irene Haisman [m. 1913–1928], which ended in divorce), Barbara Denny-Simmons who died in 1948, at age 32.

Partial filmography[edit]




  1. ^ David Quinlan (1981). The Illustrated Directory of Film Stars. Hippocrene Books. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-882-54654-4. 
  2. ^ "Halliwell's Filmgoer's companion, 1980 cited by "Library of Congress". 
  3. ^ Kevin Brownlow (1968). The Parade's Gone by ... University of California Press. p. 448. ISBN 978-0-52-003068-8. 
  4. ^ Black Cats
  5. ^ Denny plane
  6. ^ Reginald Denny profile at (PDF) Archived 6 November 2005 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 129-30, Cypress, California, 2013.
  8. ^ Smart Weapons:Top Secret History of Remote-controlled Airborne Weapons, by Hugh McDaid and David Oliver, 1997, Barnes & Noble Books
  9. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, p. 130, Cypress, CA, 2013.
  10. ^ Reginald Denny profile at Find a grave

External links[edit]